Conrad, Margrave of Meissen

Conrad I (c.1097 – 5 February 1157), called the Great (German: Konrad der Große), a member of the House of Wettin, was Margrave of Meissen from 1123 and Margrave of Lusatia from 1136 until his retirement in 1156. Initially a Saxon count, he became the ruler over large Imperial estates in the Eastern March and progenitor of the Saxon electors and kings.

Conrad I
Margrave of Meissen
Conrad the Great, depicted in the Fürstenzug, Dresden
SuccessorOtto II
Died5 February 1157
BuriedLauterberg Abbey
Noble familyHouse of Wettin
Spouse(s)Luitgard of Elchingen-Ravenstein
FatherThimo of Wettin
MotherIda of Nordheim


Conrad was the son of the Saxon count Thimo of Wettin and his wife Ida, a daughter of Count Otto of Nordheim. Both his father and maternal grandfather had been involved in the Saxon Rebellion against the Salian king Henry IV in 1073–75. Thimo was the first to call himself a Count of Wettin after the ancestral seat on the Saale river, while his elder brother Dedi ruled in the Saxon March of Lusatia (Eastern March). His son Henry the Elder also became the first Wettin margrave in Meissen in 1089.

Upon the early death of his father, Conrad succeeded him as Count of Wettin and Brehna. When his cousin Henry the Elder died in 1103, he hoped to be enfeoffed with the Lusatian and Meissen marches by Emperor Henry IV. However, his expectations proved to be false, when Henry's widow Gertrude of Brunswick gave birth to a posthumous son, Henry II. Conrad, with bitterness, spread rumours that Gertrude in fact had given birth to a girl and had replaced her by a peasant's son. When Henry II attained his majority in 1121, he campaigned against his uncle and had him arrested. Conrad faced an end in prison, but avoided this fate when Henry II died in 1123 at the age of twenty, presumably poisoned.

Now head of the Wettin dynasty, Conrad saw his aspirations fulfilled. He succeeded Henry II as Count of Eilenburg and also claimed Lusatia and Meissen. However, that same year, Emperor Henry V enfeoffed Count Wiprecht of Groitzsch with both marches. Furious Conrad forged an alliance with the Saxon duke Lothair of Supplinburg and with the support of several local nobles expelled Wiprecht. Duke Lothair ignored the Imperial bestowal and appointed Conrad Margrave of Meissen; he also named the Ascanian count Albert the Bear Margrave of Lusatia. As Wiprecht was unable to hold his own against his two opponents, Conrad was securely in power in Meissen by Wiprecht's death in May 1124.

In 1136, upon the death Wiprecht's son Henry of Groitzsch, Lothair, then emperor (as Lothair II), appointed Conrad to Lusatia as well. He also ruled the Milceni lands around Bautzen (later known as Upper Lusatia), which had been re-acquired from Poland and remained a part of Meissen, while the March of Lusatia was reduced to Lower Lusatia alone. Obtaining the status of an Imperial Prince, Margrave Conrad had the Polabian territories colonised by Flemish settlers in the course of the Ostsiedlung migration and laid the foundations for the development of the Wettin dominions in Upper Saxony.

In 1143, Conrad also became Count of Groitzsch and Rochlitz and Vogt (bailiff) in Chemnitz and Naumburg. He eased the tensions with the neighbouring Kingdom of Poland by marrying his son Theodoric to Dobroniega Ludgarda, a daughter of the Polish duke Bolesław III Wrymouth. He also married his eldest son Otto II to Hedwig of Brandenburg, a daughter of Margrave Albert the Bear.

In 1147, while the Hohenstaufen king Conrad III of Germany was on the Second Crusade, Conrad joined the Welf duke Henry the Lion, as well as Albert the Bear and the Archbishops of Magdeburg and Bremen to organise a Crusade against the Slavic Obodrites and Wagri tribes. In August, Conrad and Albert, with the bishops of Magdeburg, Havelburg, and Brandenburg, massed their forces at Magdeburg. The Obodrite prince Niklot and his fortresses of Dubin and Dimin were besieged. Both he and Pribislav, another Obodrite prince, were forced to accept Christianity and make peace.

In his later years, Conrad founded the Lauterberg monastery (later Petersberg Abbey) north of Halle, to which he retired after he had officially renounced all secular rights in favour of his son Otto II on 30 November 1156. There he died the following year and was buried next to his wife, Luitgard (Lucarda; d. 1146), daughter of the Swabian count Adalbert of Elchingen-Ravenstein and his wife Bertha of Boll, possibly a daughter of Duke Frederick of Swabia and the Salian princess Agnes of Waiblingen.

Marriage and issue

His wife Luitgard of Elchingen-Ravenstein (c.1104–1146), whom he had married before 1119, had blessed him with many children. His eldest surviving son, Otto II, succeeded him in Meissen in 1156, while his second surviving son, Theodoric, succeeded in Lusatia. His son Count Henry of Wettin married Sophia of Sommerschenburg, Countess Palatine of Saxony, daughter of Count Fredrick II of Sommerschenburg and Countess Liutgard of Stade, queen dowager of Denmark.

His issue were:



Conrad the Great
Born: c.1097 Died: 5 February 1157
Preceded by
Wiprecht of Groitzsch
Margrave of Meissen
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Henry of Groitzsch
Margrave of Lusatia
Succeeded by
Dietrich I
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